Ehrlichia & focal seizures in dogs

Written by rena sherwood
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Ehrlichia & focal seizures in dogs
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Ehrlichia, also known as ehrlichiosis, is a tick-borne disease that can affect dogs. One of its symptoms is focal, or partial, seizures. Not all dogs with the condition experience seizures. Focal seizures in dogs can occur for other reasons, including poisoning and heat stroke.


Focal seizures in dogs are different from grand mal seizures in that the tremors occur in just one part of the body. This can be a strange twitch in the face or an uncontrollable jerking in a leg. A dog stays conscious throughout this seizure, and will probably whine or appear frightened. Dogs stricken with ehrlichia also usually have fever, sudden unexplained bleeding, lameness and difficulty breathing.


The "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook" points out that these symptoms closely resemble those of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease or canine distemper. It is vitally important to get the dog diagnosed by a vet in order to get proper treatment.

Time Frame

Ehrlichiosis has three phases. Focal seizures can appear in the first, or acute, phase, which can appear soon after the dog is bitten by a carrier tick. Two to four weeks later, the dog is in the subclinical stage, which is usually when a dog responds best to treatment and may not have focal seizures. If not, the dog progresses to the third, or chronic, stage, during which the dog may seize.


Ehrlichiosis is usually treated with a round of antibiotics such as tetracycline, minocycline or doxycycline. If the dog is dehydrated, lethargic and has no appetite, it will probably be put on intravenous fluids and antibiotics. In the worst cases, blood transfusions are needed. If the focal seizures worsen, the dog may be put on anticonvulsants. Treating ehrlichiosis usually stops seizures.


Dogs can catch ehrlichia from tainted blood transfusions, but they most commonly contract it from tick bites. Keeping up a regular tick prevention program can help keep ticks away from the dog. Check dogs closely for ticks after they have played in the woods or any area with lots of long foliage.

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